For two weeks the media has been buzzing about the news that Emperor Akihito will abdicate before 2019.

Initially, it was reported that he'd step down on Dec. 31, 2018, and his son, Crown Prince Naruhito, would become the new Emperor the next day. Every media outlet seemed to accept this information despite the fact that no official announcement was made. When queried during one of his regular news conferences, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressed irritation while claiming that he knew nothing about any such report. The Imperial Household Agency was more specific in its articulation of annoyance, stating that such a scenario would be "difficult" owing to private Shinto rituals that the Imperial family conducts on New Year's Day.

The abdication report was a scoop by the Sankei Shimbun. The article appeared in the newspaper's Jan. 10 morning edition, with all other media rehashing it by the next day. According to the Sankei's anonymous sources, the main reason for the dates chosen is that having a new emperor ascend to the throne on New Year's Day would cause the least amount of inconvenience to the public, since a new Imperial era would start on Jan. 1, thus allowing government offices, businesses and citizens to prepare for a new gengō (era name) that dovetailed perfectly with a new calendar year.